ATHENS — Calling them like the song, Greece is again beckoning the world's celebrities, and uber-rich, lining up yachts for preferred ports of call, islands where they can hide away from the crowd – or show themselves off – as the COVID-19 pandemic lessens.
In a feature, the financial news agency Bloomberg noted that with international travel opening up and Greece among the first to welcome visitors who are free of the coronavirus, that people with means just can't resist coming, looking for a sweet spot of serenity or, to parade their fame in front of others and cameras.
“Greece, home to the Acropolis, the white-washed buildings of Mykonos and Santorini and the coastal beauty of Corfu, is open again for travel – and the wealthy are traveling there like never before,” the site said.
Greece leads the Bloomberg superyacht leaderboard for the first time, with at least 194 superyachts parked off its shores as of June 25, a jump of more than 80 from May and with more, and tons more tourists, expected in July.
Film stars Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn have long made Greece a summer playground and this year are being joined by NBA legend Magic Johnson, who's been posting on social media his happiness at his visit.
Then there's Australian mogul James Packer, a lesser name to Americans but still a big shot in the stratosphere where this type live, enjoying his time along with those on the yachts of billionaires David Geffen, Abdullah al Futtaim, and Ernesto Bertarelli anchored off the coast, according to vessel data analyzed by Bloomberg.
“Greece is my favorite vacation spot; I feel really at home there. I love the culture, the people are wonderful, and the water is just so incredibly appealing,” actress Kate told Harper’s Bazaar in 2018 and now she can say it again.
Greece has fully vaccinated 37 percent of its population, far less than the 70 percent needed to further beat back the pandemic but enough to drive down cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to levels deemed safe for visitors to come.
Greece opened on May 14 to visitors who are also fully vaccinated, can show a negative PCR test, or proof they recovered from the virus and the New Democracy government has further eased an already lenient lockdown and is reportedly set to lift it soon.
In the meantime, restaurants, bars, taverns and archaeological sites are open, with plans to let the vaccinated have more privileges such as dining indoors and going to movies and concerts and other activities and gatherings.
The opening was too lax for some European Union leaders upset that Greece – until reversing itself a bit – said it would even accept tourists who had the dubious Russian Sputnik V vaccine and China or from just about anywhere.
Tourism is Greece's biggest revenue engine and accounts for as much as 18-20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 169 billion euros ($200 billion) and a quarter of the jobs.
The country was 18th in the world for international tourists received from 2015-2019, according to the World Bank, accepting 30.3 million visitors on average but the numbers fell off a cliff in 2020, leading officials to try to find ways to make the country a year-round destination and cater to the super-rich.